While Enda Kenny swept the boards across the county as Fine Gael surged to picking up four seats in Mayo, there was also a shift in the power base of TDs in the county last weekend. For the first time in a number of years, Ballina has the largest number of TDs in the county. The election of both Fine Gael’s Michelle Mulherin and the return of Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary has seen Ballina overtake Castlebar in the number of TDs.
Going into the election there were two sitting TDs in the county town, but with the decision of outgoing TD Beverley Flynn not to contest last week’s General Election it left the county town with only one TD in the form of the incoming Taoiseach. While Kenny picked up votes all over the county his exceptionally strong polling in the county town made it very difficult for any of the other Castlebar based candidates to give a serious challenge to retaining a second seat in the town.
In fact between the three other Castlebar based candidates, Fianna Fáil’s Lisa Chambers, Sinn Féin’s Therese Ruane, and independent candidate Michael Kilcoyne, they only managed to poll 9,481 first preference votes between them, which was 2,879 votes less than the required quota for a seat.
Both of the elected candidates from Ballina took more than 8,000 votes each, with Mulherin getting 8,851 votes and Calleary 8,577 votes. It will be the first time since the 20th Dáil back in 1973 that Castlebar will have only one TD returned to the Dáil; back then it was Enda Kenny’s father Henry who was the Castlebar representative. Four years later the Flynn name appeared on the ballot paper and Padraig Flynn was elected for the first time. From every election on since then through nine Dáil sittings and 33 years there was a Flynn alongside a Kenny on the ballot paper and elected to a sitting of the Dáil, with Padraig’s daughter Beverley taking up the family flag in the 1997 election.
When the next general election comes around, if Enda Kenny decides that he has had enough of politics and is going to retire, the people in Castlebar will face into the very unusual prospect of having no sitting TD in their area to vote for. It could also pose a major problem for the Fine Gael party in the town as to who will replace Kenny on the ballot. Fianna Fáil have already started their regeneration process with Lisa Chambers polling a very respectable 3,343 votes last weekend after a very short campaign.